Moving from Teacher to Trainer

I have been working as a teacher trainer for 14 years now and I can honestly say it is one of the most rewarding roles I have had in the ESL industry. But is also one of the more difficult. While there are a lot of similarities between teaching students and teaching teachers there are also a lot of differences,  and let’s be honest teachers are quite often the worst kind of students.

Both teachers and teacher trainers (I’ll just call them trainers from here on in) need to know the development needs of their trainees and they need to understand the group’s and individuals’ beliefs and motivations. Then they need to build on what participants already know and can do by constructing a series of learning activities to enable them to develop their knowledge and skills. Also, as teachers do with learners, trainers need to be able to assess whether trainees have attained appropriate stages of skill achievement.

But enabling teachers to understand complex ideas and new methodologies can be very different from explaining grammar, or raising awareness of vocabulary differences. The approach you might take to introducing a group of teachers to the importance of inter-cultural awareness in the English language classroom, for example, would be very different to introducing a new grammar structure to learners.

The way that teachers develop teaching skills has parallels with language development but is significantly different. Being able to correct learner error is not the same as having a number of different strategies for doing this, and knowing when each can be used appropriately. And although both teachers and trainers have to plan sessions and courses, the course content and types of activities involved can be very different. While many language teaching activities are focused on enabling learners to use new language features, trainers are tasked with raising teacher awareness of new practices and enabling teachers to change their teaching behaviours to suit.

Trainers also need to be able to hold developmental discussions with teachers including pre and post observation. This is an area that requires great sensitivity on the part of the trainer, as teachers may not be used to being observed, and may not be open to someone observing and commenting on their teaching. That can feel quite threatening.

Indeed, dealing with conflict is another set of skills that trainers need to develop. What do you do when the teachers you are training disagree with you? Another common issue is that teachers will justify their current practice as being effective enough and may often resist changing anything they do.

Finally while teachers and trainers do need access to teaching resources, trainers need additional access to training resources and there aren’t masses available

But where can you start? How can you take that initial step from teacher to trainer? Last year I was delivering the Cambridge Train the Trainer course in Japan for teachers who were going to be training high school English language teachers as part of the Cambridge CELT-S program.  As I was preparing to deliver the course I noted that I agreed with the approach the course took. I could see how this would benefit these teachers as they moved into a new role. As I was delivering the course I came to realise how much easier my initial years of teacher training would have been if I hadn’t had to figure out everything by trial and error. If this course had existed back then I would have saved myself a lot of time and a lot of stress.

Knowing what I know now about training, I can’t recommend this course enough for experienced teachers, senior teachers, academic managers, mentors and anyone else looking to move into teacher training. We are launching our first course July 9th 2018. Head over to for more information.

Cambridge Train The Trainer-page-001


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